Which money transfer service is cheaper and more convenient when you need to send funds overseas?
When you need to send money overseas from Australia, choosing the right provider to handle the transaction is crucial. Poor exchange rates and high transfer fees can turn a simple transaction into an expensive nightmare and leave a big hole in your bank balance, so it’s vital that you compare transfer providers before sending any funds overseas.
Western Union and TransferWise both offer competitive international money transfer services from Australia to countries in all four corners of the globe. But which company offers the most affordable and convenient transfers? Let’s compare them and find out.
Compare Western Union and Transferwise
Meet the contenders
Western Union is one of the best-known names in the international money transfer game. With a history dating back to 1851, Western Union offers quick and easy transfers to more than 200 countries around the world. You can use Western Union to send in-person cash transfers or online transactions, and you can send funds to overseas bank accounts or for cash collection from more than 500,000 Western Union locations worldwide.
TransferWise is a much newer arrival on the international transfer scene, having been founded in 2011. The London-based company operates a peer-to-peer money transfer service that promises fast transactions and bank-beating exchange rates. All transfers are sent online to your recipient’s bank account.
The exchange rate is often the most crucial factor in determining the affordability of a transaction. You will obviously want to find the highest exchange rate available so you get the best value for the Australian dollars you want to convert into another currency.
Western Union’s exchange rates vary greatly depending on the amount of money you are sending, where you send it and the transfer method you select. However, it does offer a handy price calculator on its website to help you find out what exchange rate will apply to your transaction. Like most money transfer providers, Western Union makes money on the margin between the mid-market exchange rate and the rate it offers to its customers.
Meanwhile, because TransferWise is a peer-to-peer money transfer service, it allows you to send money overseas using the real mid-market exchange rate. As a result, it offers superior exchange rates to Western Union and is a clear winner in this category. TransferWise’s live rates are easily visible by selecting your currencies on the provider’s homepage.
The table below compares exchange rates for a $1,000 international money transfer in several common currencies. Make sure to compare current live rates between transfer providers before submitting a transaction request.
|TransferWise||Western Union cash transfer||Western Union bank account transfer|
|AUD/USD||1 AUD = 0.7652 USD||1 AUD = 0.7432 USD||N/A|
|AUD/EUR (France)||1 AUD = 0.7007 EUR||1 AUD = 0.6393 EUR||1 AUD = 0.6567 EUR|
|AUD/GBP||1 AUD = 0.6161 GBP||1 AUD = 0.5863 GBP||1 AUD = 0.5866 GBP|
|AUD/INR||1 AUD = 50.8940 INR||1 AUD = 50.2227 INR||1 AUD = 50.7084 INR|
|AUD/NZD||1 AUD = 1.0491 NZD||1 AUD = 1.0192 NZD||1 AUD = 1.0187 NZD|
|AUD/CAD||1 AUD = 1.0265 CAD||1 AUD = 0.9678 CAD||N/A|
|AUD/PHP||1 AUD = 37.4300 PHP||1 AUD = 36.5943 PHP||1 AUD = 36.5570 PHP|
|AUD/CNY||1 AUD = 5.1881 CNY||1 AUD = 5.1147 CNY||1 AUD = 5.1407 CNY|
*Exchange rates at 10/11/16
The other main cost you need to consider when sending a transfer – and the other way transfer providers make money – is the transaction fee.
Once again, Western Union’s fee varies depending on the amount you send, the destination country and your transfer method. The price calculator tool on its website can be used to work out how much you will have to pay for your transaction.
As it doesn’t apply an exchange rate margin, TransferWise relies on charging fees to make money. Fees vary depending on the amount you send and where you send it, but a minimum fee of $2 always applies. For example, the following fees apply if you want to send AUD to GBP with TransferWise:
- Amounts up to $10,000: a fee of 0.7% applies
- Amounts over $10,000: a fee of 0.7% applies to the initial $10,000, and a 0.5% fee applies to anything over that amount
You can find full details of TransferWise’s fees on its pricing page, but the table below outlines transaction fees for a number of common currencies when sending $1,000:
|TransferWise||Western Union cash transfer||Western Union bank account transfer|
As you can see, the right provider for your transfer will depend on the size of your transaction. For example, while TransferWise is a cheaper option when sending $1,000 to China as per the table above, if you were sending $5,000, TransferWise’s fee rises to $73.90 while you still only need to pay $8 (bank account transfer) or $18 (cash transfer) to send the funds with Western Union.
How to send money with Western Union and TransferWise
It’s quick and easy to send money overseas with both Western Union and TransferWise. If sending money online with Western Union you will need to follow these simple steps:
- Register for a free account online.
- Verify your identity with a valid form of ID, for example your driver’s licence or passport.
- Login to your account and enter the details of your transaction (how much you’re sending and where, including your recipient’s bank account details).
- Pay for the transaction with your credit or debit card.
- You will receive an email confirmation with a tracking number.
- The money is deposited into your beneficiary’s account.
To send cash from a Western Union location:
- Visit your nearest Western Union branch.
- Complete a “Send Money” form.
- Give the Western Union agent the completed form and the funds to cover the transfer amount and fee.
- Save your receipt and give the tracking number to your recipient so they can collect the cash.
If you want to send funds with TransferWise, you will first need to sign up for an account:
- Click the “Sign up” link on the TransferWise website.
- Verify your ID.
- Enter the details of your transfer, including the amount, currency and your recipient’s bank account details.
- Pay for the transaction using your bank account or card.
- Your funds will be sent to your beneficiary’s bank account within 1–4 working days.
Supported countries and currencies
Before you choose a transfer provider, it’s important to check whether it will allow you to send money to your chosen destination and in the currency you want.
Western Union is the clear winner in this category, offering transfers in more than 135 currencies to over 200 countries. Rather than listing all the supported transfer destinations here, we recommend using the price calculator tool on the Western Union website to find out where you can send funds.
TransferWise doesn’t support as many currencies as Western Union, but it does allow you to send and receive the following currencies:
It also allows you to send (but not receive) the following currencies:
There are several other options you should consider to help you decide which transfer provider offers the most convenient service for you. Check out the table below to see how Western Union and TransferWise stack up across a number of other key categories.
|Transfer time||1–4 working days|
|Maximum transaction limit|
One of the often-neglected factors you should consider before choosing a money transfer service is the customer support it provides. This ensures that you will be able to have your questions answered promptly and problems efficiently dealt with if they arise.
Western Union offers a frequently asked questions section on its website, while you can also access help via phone and email customer assistance.
Meanwhile, TransferWise offers a handy online help section with a wide range of frequently asked questions and basic advice articles. Phone, email and live chat support are also available.
To get a clearer idea of the services and support offered by transfer providers, it’s a good idea to read online reviews from other customers.
- At the time of writing, TransferWise had a five-star rating (from 33,249 reviews) on TrustPilot
- Western Union had a four-star rating (from 4,234 reviews)
Which option is better: Western Union or TransferWise?
Whether you should send your international money transfer with Western Union or TransferWise depends on the details of your transaction. In most cases you will find that TransferWise represents the more affordable option, with better exchange rates and lower transfer fees, so it will usually be the best option if you are looking for the cheaper of the two.
However, there are certain situations where Western Union is a more suitable choice, such as if you want to send an exotic currency not supported by TransferWise. Western Union is also a worthwhile option if you’re looking for the speed and convenience of a near-instant cash transfer, allowing you to transfer money to someone on the other side of the world within minutes.
Consider your transfer needs and objectives before you lodge a transaction and you will be able to choose the right provider to help you send money overseas.